Shepherdstown Ford and the End of the Campaign is the third and final volume of Ezra Carman’s magisterial The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, superbly edited and annotated by Dr. Tom Clemens.
The battle of Antietam was bloody and horrific, but as Carman makes clear, he did not believe it was the decisive battle of the sprawling 1862 campaign. Generals Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan intended to continue fighting after Sharpsburg, but the battle of Shepherdstown Ford (September 19-20) forced them to abandon their goals and end the campaign. Carman was one of the few who gave this smaller engagement its due importance by detailing the disaster that befell the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry, Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill’s success in repulsing the Union advance, and the often overlooked foray of Jeb Stuart’s cavalry to seize the Potomac River ford at Williamsport.
Carman includes an invaluable statistical study of the casualties in the various battles of the entire Maryland Campaign, and covers President Lincoln’s decision to relieve General McClellan of command on November 7. He also explores the relations between the president and McClellan before and after the Maryland Campaign, which he appended to his original manuscript. His thorough examination of the controversy about McClellan’s role in the aftermath of Second Manassas campaign will surprise some and discomfort others, as might his insightful narrative about McClellan’s reluctance to commit General Franklin’s corps to aid Maj. Gen. John Pope’s army at Manassas. Carman concludes his account with an executive summary of the entire campaign.
This magisterial study concludes with Dr. Clemens’ invaluable bibliographical dictionary, a genealogical goldmine of personal information about the soldiers, politicians, and diplomats who had an impact on shaping Carman’s manuscript. While many names will be familiar to readers, others upon whom Carman relied for creating his campaign narrative are as obscure to us today as they were during the war.
The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. III: The Battle of Shepherdstown and the End of the Campaign, concludes the most comprehensive and detailed account of the campaign ever produced. Jammed with firsthand accounts, personal anecdotes, detailed footnotes, maps, and photos, this long-awaited study will be appreciated as Civil War history at its finest.